Picture of Michelle A.
Michelle A.
Age: 24
Currently Residing: Austin, Texas
Student: St. Edward’s University Graduate School
LD: Dyslexia, ADD

I grew up in a family where the LDs reigned! M sister, my father, and I all have LDs. My father, a successful electrical engineer, is Dyslexic and grew up when it was highly misunderstood. Due to his inability to read and write, my father repeated the first grade and continued to struggle thereafter. With a supportive and positive-minded family, tutors, and the help of numerous audio taped books, he managed to graduate high school and college. My father – still utilizing audiotapes instead of books – not only did he give my sister and I hope that we too could succeed like anyone else but that we could do so in our own creative way.

Before I knew of my Dyslexia, life in public school stressed me out to the point of illness and intense hand cramps during class and homework time. Despite my parent’s help, I continued to struggle through public school and underwent countless attacks of being called “stupid”. I was teased for how I read aloud and for being taken out of class to work on my reading and writing with the other “special” kids. I absolutely hated school!

In fourth grade, I was finally diagnosed with Dyslexia and mild ADD and started wearing glasses to help my eyes track. I transferred to a private school the following year that specialized in learning differences where my sister also attended. Initially I was embarrassed for going to this new school, but those feelings did not last long. This school was the best thing that ever happened to my self-esteem and reading abilities. Being around others with LDs and having the encouragement to ask questions in small class settings was amazing. Suddenly my stress induced stomachaches and hand cramps went away. Plus, I was finally learning to read well!

Upon graduating high school, I was accepted to college at the University of Oklahoma where I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology, enjoyed my social life including each and every football season, and was active in my sorority, Delta Gamma. In fact, a few of my sorority sisters were dyslexic and/or ADD too, including one of my now best friend who is currently getting her doctorate in physical therapy! I learned never to be ashamed no matter where I go, because I am not alone as a LD individual. I repeat, those with learning differences are not alone in this world, and more people know what it’s like than you’d think!

While in college, I kept my support systems close and utilized the testing center where LD and disabled students could take tests in a private, quiet setting with extended time. It was awesome, and most of my professors were surprisingly very understanding and flexible about it.  I did struggle from time to time and even had to retake one difficult class after my first semester, but I never gave up. Instead, I tried new methods until I learned what worked and what didn’t for different types of classes. Sometimes this meant I put in more work than others and it usually paid off. I utilized the university’s free tutoring on campus when I was really struggling or would visit my professor’s office hours. By my last two years of college, I had my study habits down for learning different types of material. Sometimes you just have to get creative and learn by trial and error.

After all this hard work at college, I was feeling burnt out and took a break for a year and a half before continuing my education to become a therapist. I wanted to take time off from studying, make sure I was pursuing the right field. During this time, I found a love for reading mystery or thriller books. Something I never EVER would have expected to love as a LD person who always said they  ‘hated to read’. I also worked both in retail and part-time in the mental health field until I decided it was time to start pursuing my dream of helping children through therapy.

Currently, I’m half way through a graduate program to obtain my masters in counseling and become a licensed professional counselor. My LD may still influence the way I learn, but it does not and never will impact my intelligence, skills, creativity, or competence. I may still read slower than the majority of my classmates and friends, but I will never let that get in the way of my dreams or a good book.

As LD individuals, we think and learn differently, or as my dad taught me, more creatively! Don’t be afraid to explore and embrace this creative side; it will help fuel you and promote growth. Personally, I took advantage of extracurricular opportunities such as athletics and art while in grade school and incorporating into my lifestyle in college and life after. These outlets were instrumental to my successes through school and college, and I still enjoy using artistic outlets and yoga for personal pleasure and de-stressing. Everyone needs an outlet, LD or not. I believe such positive outlets and support systems encourage our creativity and personal growth. Just find what sparks your interest and inner happiness and run with it!

By embracing and accepting my LD as part of who I am and how I think differently from others, I was able to learn how to live and continue to blossom despite what others labeled me as or said I could not do. For me, acceptance and flexibility were the key steps in moving forward. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another. There are countless options out there and creative alternatives, so never be afraid to ask for help if you’re feeling stuck. Just whatever you do, don’t give up hope, because living with a LD doesn’t have to hold you back. And honestly, I find it way more interesting to think differently and more creatively than the “normal” thinkers. But hey, what is normal anyways besides a setting on your washer and dryer machines? There is really no such thing as normal. In fact, I try not to think of myself as learning different or disabled; I just think of myself as a unique learner.

"Ditch the labels, accept and love yourself for your creatively designed mind, and embrace the way you think and experience life as a unique learner and thinker."

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